EXCOMMUNICATION, a word de noting exclusion, whether temporary or permanent, from fellowship in religious rites, involving also, where participation in such rites is required in the civil order, privation of the rights of citizenship. It is not peculiar to the Biblical religions, but is found in most of the sytematized cults, whatever their origin. The clear est analogy, however, to the Christian discipline of excommunication is that furnished by the Rabbinical code. The offender first received a public admoni tion, and seven days later, if he did not make satisfaction, the lesser excommuni cation, Niddui, was pronounced against him, whereby he was isolated during 30 days from contact with all save his wife and children, being obliged to keep at least four cubits' distance from all others; and though the sentence did not technically include expulsion from the synagogue, yet this provision practically enforced it. At the expiration of 30 days, a second term of like duration was en joined in case of continued impenitence; and the contumacious were then visited with the greater excommunication of Cherem, which excluded both from the synagogue and from all social intercourse, and the offender was treated as a leper. These two grades of excommunication were the only ones anciently in use; but the later rabbins added a third and se verer one, styled Shammatha or Anathe ma Maranatha, which was lifelong, at tended with solemn imprecations, and sometimes entailing forfeiture of goods.
The Christian system of excommuni cation is based doctrinally on the precept of Christ (Matt. xviii: 15-18) and on the precepts and practice of St. Paul. It was primarily, as the word denotes, ex clusion from communion in the eucharist and the agape, or love-feast, including also suspension from office in the case of clerical offenders; and it was distin guished as major and minor, each having various degrees of severity.
The most notable exercise of the power of excommunication in the modern Angli can Church was when Bishop Gray, as Metropolitan of Cape Town, deprived and excommunicated Bishop Colenso of Natal in 1863, which sentence, approved by the Convocations of Canterbury and York, the General Convention of the American Episcopal Church, the Epis copal Synod of Scotland, and the Pro vincial Council of Canada, was reversed by the Judicial Committee of Privy Council in 1865.
In the Established and other Presby terian Churches of Scotland, the lesser excommunication, involving deprivation of all "sealing ordinances," can be pro nounced by the kirk session.
Islam forms an exception to the almost universal incidence of the practice of excommunication. Under the Moslem code every religious offense carries with it a temporal penalty, such as fines, scourging, stoning, or other mode of death, and only in this last manner can an offender be cut off from the congrega tion.